Every month, Utne Reader previews a selection of current and upcoming independent film and documentary releases. This sampler was curated by editor Ben Sauder. 


February 2017 Film Sampler

SELECT NEW RELEASES

Mountain

In Mountain, a young Orthodox Jewish woman becomes involved with a nocturnal community of prostitutes and drug dealers.

Zvia lives with her family in the Jewish cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives. During the day, while her husband and children are at school, she is left alone on the mountain. She goes for walks in the cemetery, trying to escape the endless house work. One night, to her surprise, she is exposed to an unsettling sexual scene. Stirred by this image, she starts exploring this new realm of the mountain, while trying to keep a normal face during her daytime routine. Until she can't anymore. (Distributor synopsis)


The Return

In 2012, California amended its "Three Strikes" law--one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country. The passage of Prop. 36 marked the first time in U.S. history that citizens voted to shorten sentences of those currently incarcerated. Within days the reintegration of thousands of "lifers" was underway.

The Return examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines--prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping navigate complex transitions, and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law. At a moment of reckoning on mass incarceration, what can California's experiment teach the nation? (Distributor synopsis)


Shallow Waters

How does a mentally ill person drown himself in a few feet of water on a crowded Memorial Day beach?

A tall, middle-aged, fully dressed man walks up to his shoulders into the cold shallow waters of San Francisco Bay; and he waits. Police and Fire units respond in droves; and they wait. A good-sized crowd watches and waits as the sand in the man's hourglass runs out. Succumbing to the cold and rising tide, the man loses consciousness within the hour. His body is left to drift slowly back to shore...and still, they wait.

Winner of multiple awards – including Best Documentary (New Hope Film Festival 2016) – and screened at the convention of the American Psychological Association (2016), Shallow Waters deconstructs the events of that hour in an attempt to understand what happened and why. What were they all waiting for? (Distributor synopsis)


Dr. Feelgood

The story of Dr. William Hurwitz - a preeminent pain specialist sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking - provides a window into the ethical dilemma of opioid prescriptions. Painkillers give doctors tremendous power to relieve pain, a primary goal of any physician. But this power begets trouble when the same drugs can lead to addiction, abuse and death.

In 2004 Dr. William Hurwitz was convicted of over 50 counts of narcotics distribution and handed a 25-year prison sentence. Dr. Feelgood traces Dr. Hurwitz's trial and eventual appeal, detailing the events that led to his arrest. (Distributor synopsis)


Watermelon Woman

Re-released for its 20th anniversary in a pristine 2K HD restoration, The Watermelon Woman is the story of Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye), a twenty-something black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive 1930s black film actress popularly known as "The Watermelon Woman." While uncovering the meaning of Fae Richards' life, Cheryl experiences a total upheaval in her personal life. Her love affair with Diana (Guinevere Turner, Go Fish), a beautiful white woman, and her interactions with the gay and black communities, are subject to the comic yet biting criticism of her best friend Tamara (Valerie Walker). Meanwhile, each answer Cheryl discovers about the Watermelon Woman evokes a flurry of new questions about herself and her future. (Distributor synopsis)

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